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How Much Should Distance Runners Lift?


Lifting heavy is better than lifting lighter.
Article Courtesy: running.competitor.com

You’ll be surprised how much strength work you should be doing in the gym.
In addition to aerobic development, one of the key components to running faster is improving your ability to produce a forceful stride quickly and efficiently. Simply speaking, the more power you can generate with each stride while using a minimal amount of energy, the faster you can run.
Moreover, if you can continue to generate powerful strides without hitting an intensity that is so high you cannot sustain it, you’ll be able to maintain this faster pace for a longer distance.
So how do you increase your ability to produce powerful strides as a runner?
Let’s assume that the highest amount of power you could produce at a full sprint was 500 watts (watts is a measurement of power generated during exercise). At your peak fitness, you can run a 10k at 50 percent of your maximal power. This means your submaximal sustainable power is about 250 watts.
When you make yourself stronger, say by lifting heavy weights at near max effort, you might be able to improve your sprint power from 500 to 600 watts. In doing so, you move your submaximal sustainable power during a 10k from 250 to 300 watts. Given you’re now generating more power with the same effort, you’ll be able to run considerably faster.
So, while lifting heavy for a distance runner may not appear to be sport-specific since it is a completely different energy system, it can be beneficial, as it will help you to work at a higher capacity during a distance race without accumulating enough fatigue to stop your efforts.Why Not Lift Heavy Weights All The Time?
If after reading the first section you’re wondering why more training schedules don’t include serious amounts of heavy lifting, there are three reasons.
First, power is only one factor when it comes to running performance. Of much greater importance is your aerobic system and your ability to clear lactate. Having a strong, powerful stride will only take you so far if you don’t have the aerobic system to support it.
RELATED: Heavy Lifting For Better Running
Second, while I used a fairly dramatic improvement in the previous example, increasing your sustained watts at submaximal effort isn’t quite that easy. Cyclists who are accustomed to measuring watts will tell you that an improvement in 20 to 50 watts is difficult to obtain. As such, even if you only focused on improving your wattage output as a runner, the improvement wouldn’t be dramatic. This type of training is for the advanced runner looking to squeeze out that extra 5 or 10 percent from their training.
Finally, the difficulty in adding heavy weight training to your training schedule is that it’s very tiring. Like a hard track workout, lifting heavy will leave your muscles sore and tired the next day. The more heavy lifting you do, the less effective you’ll be on workout days. As such, you should follow the hard days hard, easy days easy principle when adding heavy lifting to your training.Won’t Lifting Heavy Weights Bulk Me Up?
Not surprisingly, many runners are worried that lifting heavy weights will bulk them up. The benefits of adding power to your stride would be negated if it also added weight to your frame. Luckily for runners, it is a myth that heavy weights will cause to bulk up.
Muscle “bulk” is dependent on several variables, which include adequate nutrition (excess calories), an optimal stimulus in the form of specific, heavy training 4-5 times per week, and enough rest from catabolic activities (such as running) so that adaptation may occur. If any of these variables are not in place, “bulk” will not occur.
Specifically, you shouldn’t be lifting heavy more than once or twice per week and the vast majority of your training will be in the form of running. Therefore, the time you spend running will vastly outnumber the time spent lifting heavy. This will also prevent any excess bulk.


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12 Comments

Nice find Brianna! I'm a small guy and I usually hear that it's "good for distance running" and that I shouldn't lift. I personally really enjoy working out and enjoy hearing this side of it too :)

Nice find Brianna! I'm a small guy and I usually hear that it's "good for distance running" and that I shouldn't lift. I personally really enjoy working out and enjoy hearing this side of it too :)

Thanks!! I'm always so worried about getting too bulky so it was nice to read this :)

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Andrew Keresztes
Apr 03 2013 02:31 AM

Well being a middle distance runner but a mere 120~ pounds, I have been told to lift a lot from my coach since starting college.  All of the distance runners lift on my team, but it is only on workout days and it is not super heavy, just a lot of reps.  I personally am terrible and one of the weakest on the team, but am steadily getting stronger.

Alberto Salazar has a view that I agree with. Runners should be on a lifting regimen, and should not be worried about bulking up. High to medium mileage will balance out any bulking, but the lifting will make you stronger. A stronger runner is a faster runner, especially when it comes to your core.

I try to lift light weights. I bench about 85 pounds (I weigh 110 pounds). I curl 15-20 pounds depending on how I feel.

In the off season, as much as possible. Lifting and strength is key for injury prevention and consistent year round running. 

    • Brianna likes this
Olimpic lifts are awesome as they are complex movements that incorporate several muscle groups having them work tohether in a functional way.
Unlike curls thst is the example of the most unfuntional iisolated excercise there is.
Heavy short sets of olimpic lifts, or their variations such as power cleans, and or complex power excercises such as miliyary press, bench press, squats; are great for athletes as the strenght you gather from them is easily translated into the "real" world, unlike curls for example that only make you look pretty are totally useless in a sport or real life situation.
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tabitharuns26.2
Sep 28 2013 06:26 PM
Always strength training, at least this time around on the training cycle. Hurt my hip pretty bad and that was because of my lack of strength. I think it's one of the most important components of running.

I work a lot with body weight exercises: high reps and short recovery.

I enjoy lifting heavy (5x5 workouts are my favorite) but I cant get carried away anymore since I lift alone. Also I found curls to be beneficial when I was arm wrestling competitively...and it doesnt hurt that it makes your arms big for the look.
I haven't gone to the gym consistently since last November or so, and really haven't cared about it since I got back into running. I started back up at the gym last week, though. YIKES have I lost a lot of upper body strength!
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JetWing2011
Oct 09 2013 01:27 AM

I lift weights almost every day. I try to lift around 50 pounds if possible.

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